What are Complications of Hip Surgery?

There are certain complications associated with any type of major surgical procedure which should be discussed with your surgeon prior to surgery.

Infection, although rare, can be a concern after surgery. The likelihood of complications following surgery is low; an estimated 2 percent of hip replacement surgery patients experience infection affecting the hip joint.1

Infections, however, can be painful and may require antibiotics; in severe cases of infection, the new hip joint may need to be removed and replaced. Make note of any unusual pain as well as other symptoms such as headache or fever during your recovery. Infection to the new hip joint is typically a result of bacteria that enters the bloodstream through other means such as dental procedures, urinary tract infections or skin infections. Notify your doctor immediately if you experience a persistent fever (over 100 degrees), shaking chills, increasing redness, tenderness or swelling of the hip joint, drainage from hip wound or increasing pain during both activity and rest.

Another risk factor of major surgery can be blood clots, which in the case of hip surgery, occurring in the leg veins or pelvis are one of the most common complications following hip replacement surgery. These can happen within the first several weeks of recovery. Notify your doctor if you have pain in calf and leg, unrelated to wound location, tenderness or redness of calf, swelling of thigh, calf, ankle or foot.

As a result of your hip surgery, you may experience long term complications. Your legs may become or seem uneven. Your doctor may test the stability and biomechanics of your hip and/or recommend a shoe lift to help equalize your legs. Over time, the hip implant may wear down or loosen. When the prosthesis erodes, further bone loss may also occur— a process known as osteolysis. As newer materials and techniques are being used and introduced, this is becoming a less common problem. Beyond the complications mentioned above, other issues may arise such as dislocation, nerve and blood vessel injury, bleeding, fracture and/or stiffness. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns during your recovery process.
There are some precautions that you can discuss with your doctor and take such as wearing elastic stockings or plastic shoes which inflate with air to compress your leg muscles and improve the flow of blood in the leg after the operation; drugs to help thin the blood, and exercises to increase blood flow to the muscles.


1 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons